An Apparent Concern

Finally someone took the bull by the horns, we thought. The headline had jumped out at us:
“City ethics panel fines L.A. port terminal operator, execs.” Sensational, we thought.

We were delighted with those words because officials within the LA/Long Beach complex have been allowed free reign in their day-to-day operations within the “goods-movement” industry, and to say that their actions with respect to port operations were irresponsible would be putting it mildly.

The consequences of their efforts have already been made public and we’ve referred to them on a number of occasions. In a state-sponsored study about a year ago it was revealed that an estimated 2,400 Californians died prematurely every year from illnesses linked to pollution emitted by trucks, trains, ships and cargo-handling equipment used to move goods into and out of the state’s ports. In addition to those deaths, the study cited 2,380 hospital admissions, 360,000 missed workdays and 1,100 missed school days … all directly attributed to pollution from the intermodal industry

• Following a San Bernardino field hearing where she heard testimony on the health effects of diesel pollution, Senator Barbara Boxer vowed to push for tighter locomotive emission standards and reduced emissions from vessels calling at local ports. “We can’t waste time while kids are coughing and wheezing,” she said, with apparent concern.

• Long Beach Second District City Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal has stated, “By reducing toxic air emissions, we can significantly decrease the risk of respiratory-related medical conditions negatively impacting our community and children … The environment can no longer make up for our reckless use of resources,” she said, with apparent concern.

In a political sense, these two women were saying all the right things. Most of California’s public servants are required to talk like that but none have taken steps to deal with the issue, and we’ve wondered why. Finally, however, the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission took it upon themselves to levy fines of $ 20,000 against Southern California marine terminal operator Trans Pacific Container Service Corp. and two of its vice presidents. That’s a start anyway, we thought.

“The three separate fines,” the story went on, “approved by the commission on Tuesday, assessed a $ 15,500 fine against Port of Los Angeles operator Trans Pacific, known as TraPac. Two of its senior-level employees, Frank Pisano and Scott Axelson, were fined $ 2,750 and $ 1,750, respectively.” So far, so good, we thought, and we knew that this was just the tip of the iceberg.

But the rest of the story punctured our balloon. “The cases stem from contributions to three municipal political campaigns made in the name of Pisano and Axelson …” the story went on. All that matters, you see, is the protection of political brethren … not the protection of the common man.

Were we disappointed? Yes. Surprised? No. Selfish politicians aren’t found just in California … they’re everywhere. But we were hoping that … just this once … we’d see some humane ones.